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A good friend of mine dropped by my office last week with a unique request. He walked in carrying a 100-year-old bamboo fly rod and two vintage reels. My friend is not an angler so I was pleasantly surprised thinking that finally, we were going to get to do some fishing together. After catching up for a few minutes he said he needed help with something. Over the weekend he had helped a widow from his church move out of her house. As a thank you for his time, the old woman gave him a box of old fishing gear that belonged to her husband. He went home and did some research, discovering that some of this equipment could be worth quite a bit to the right person. Turns out a comparable bamboo rod had recently sold on eBay for upwards of 5k and this one looked to be in incredible condition. I blurted out, “you need to take it down to ____ and get it appraised.” His response? “Matt, that’s why I’m here. I need you to get it appraised for me.”

He continued, “You see, as a black man, if I walk into ____ they will assume I stole this stuff and best case give me an unfair appraisal, but worst case they may call the cops on me. I have nothing to hide, but right now that’s the last thing I want to be dealing with.” I could feel my chest caving in. I knew that his assessment of the situation was accurate.

by Matt Thomas

I spent two years working for one of the largest privately-held home builders in the country. I took the job with this company because of their reputation for exceptional in-house training and robust customer service model; not because I knew anything about building or selling production homes. In one of the many training workshops I went through during my time with this company my favorite executive hammered home three words I’ll never forget, “Bad News Fast.” He shared this nugget inside the context of customer experience but I watched it permeate our internal culture and operations. The result? Employees always knew where they stood. The only team members who carried anxiety were low performers or poor culture fits. In truth, they should have been anxious.

Over the past few days I’ve spoken with business owners who have lost everything, more who have had to get as lean as possible, and some who are well-positioned to flourish in times like these. After discussing the health of their businesses the thing I have been most curious about is how they are communicating with their employees.